April 1, 1878 – William Osborne, the cook at the mill cookhouse on Big River Flat, celebrated April Fool’s Day by playing a practical joke on the Mendocino Mill workers. The Beacon reported that, “When they were seated at dinner about the time to partake of dessert, they all went for some nice looking pies that were placed before them. One young man, having a weakness in that way, corralled a half of one. The joke was soon discovered as the delicacies were made of saw-dust.”

William, described as popular and jolly in the Beacon, was born in 1833 on the island of Flores, in the Azores. Originally named Mathias Fraga, his early life saw him embarking on seafaring adventures aboard a whaling ship captained by a man named William Osborne. It’s believed that he was adopted by the captain, leading to a change in his name.

Historic home with picket fence in front. 3 women stand on porch.

Three unidentified women standing on the porch of the Osborne-Jerome House located at 45150 Calpella Street in Mendocino, about 1900.

While the exact date of William’s arrival in Mendocino remains unknown, he became a citizen of the United States at the Mendocino County Court on December 1, 1873. His application stated he had resided for at least five years in the United States, with at least one year spent in California.

Just two months after the April Fool’s Day prank, William married Annie Thomas. Annie was the first of five sisters to immigrate to Mendocino from Flores at the invitation of their uncle, Manuel Thomas Ramus. At the time of their marriage, William was 45 years old, while Annie was 25.

The couple lived on the property at the northeast corner of Calpella and Williams streets. Their home, the first on that block, was built by William himself. William and Annie welcomed two sons, Joaquin in 1879 and Matteos, nicknamed “Mattie,” in 1881.

Tragedy struck the Osborne home on August 6, 1886, when William passed away at the age of 53. Annie later married Antone Jerome, and together they raised Joaquin, Mattie, and six children of their own in the historical home now known as the Osborne-Jerome House.

Walking Tours of Historic Mendocino – Join our expert docents for a stroll and lively commentary. You’ll pass by early pioneer homes, historic meeting places, and buildings that make up the the Mendocino Historic District. https://www.kelleyhousemuseum.org/walking-tours/